How to give honest feedback without frustrating your designer

You’ve chosen your designer, you’ve briefed them on your needs, reached an agreement on terms, and you’re eager to see what they’ve come up! Then, their name lands in your inbox along with the much anticipated attachments – but then you click to find that...they’re not quite what you were after. Now what?

If you do it right, giving feedback won’t be perceived as negative. In fact, it’s an important part of the design process – and it’s something that your designer is anticipating. But giving feedback in an unproductive way can lead to an overall unproductive relationship between you and the creative you hired. 

As designers, we’re here to let you know that we’re used to feedback – we even enjoy it because it helps us do our job better. But, it can be frustrating when clients are constantly giving you negative feedback and not giving you the information you need to do your job properly. 

It’s easy for miscommunications to happen – especially if you’ve never worked with a designer before. But with just a few small tweaks to your approach we believe you can communicate with your designer better than ever – and land on a superb final product! 

How to give honest feedback to your designer  |  Hue & Tone Creative


Step back and ask questions

Before mindlessly shooting off negative feedback, take some time to marinate on what they sent you. Let them know you received the proofs and are putting together some notes. Then, go through the examples and guidelines you provided your designer. What varies from what you asked for? What’s in line with what you asked for (even if it’s not your favorite)? 

Put together a list of questions to better understand where your designer is coming from. The answers to your questions may change your mind on a certain concept or help you distinguish the direction you want to go. 

Creating an open dialogue will go a long way in helping you both understand each other’s point of view. 


Be professional, calm and controlled

We know it can be hard to stay calm when you feel like a project isn’t going right – but like any other professional situation it’s important to stay calm. Keep your communication -- whether it’s over the phone or on email – calm and clear is key. Be sure to politely explain why what they’ve produced isn’t quite up your alley.

Just saying “I don’t like it,” “it’s not what I asked for,” or “it’s not for me” isn’t constructive, and it doesn’t give your designer a fair chance to fix it. So, be as specific as you can so that they can understand what does and doesn’t work. That way they’ll be able to take your feedback and turn it into a stronger second draft. 

If you can, show them examples of the kind of thing you dolike from other organizations, so that they have a solid idea of the kind of design they need to be working toward. 


Explaining the why

When you’re highlighting elements of a project you’re not quite keen on, explaining the why is super important. Whether it’s because it goes against the guidelines you sent them, it’s too similar to what you’ve done in the past (and found to be ineffective), or it aligns too closely with one of your major competitors, give them a bit of context to help them understand the thinking behind your rationale.

Keep in mind, your designer has probably spent a lot of time on what you’re seeing – if you don’t like it, there was clearly a miscommunication – and it’s on both of you to fix it!


Keep it in perspective

Perfection takes time. Just because they didn’t deliver exactly what you wanted the first time around, don’t hold it against them, patronize, or start micro-managing them. You hired a designer because you don’t know how to do it yourself – so stand back and let them do their work. Keep in mind they are an expert at what they do – just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not quality work. 

Their job is to bring your vision to life. Your job is to equip them with the information they need to understand your vision.


Put your personal preference to one side

When you’re critiquing their work, remember that design is often a personal preference. Be sure to separate your personal taste from your brand image. A designer might be able to see the bigger picture in a way you can’t – so just because it doesn’t connect with you doesn’t mean it won’t connect with your target demographic. The taste of your audience is probably going to be different than yours, so be sure to talk through your designer’s rationale before shooting down a concept – they might know something you don’t.

Balance negatives with positives

It’s the old compliment sandwich trick. And this tip isn’t just to make them feel better! As we touched on earlier, the positives will help them really get a feel for what you dolike so that they can keep developing quality concepts. 

If there really aren’t any positives, you can still be complimentary about their work, but just be clear that it’s not right for your brand or this particular project. If this is the case, be crystal clear you’d like to see a totally new direction – don’t try to sugar coat it too much or they probably won’t realize that what they showed you is a complete wash. 


Keep in mind what you agreed too 

Be conscientious of when you’re asking to go above and beyond the terms of your contract. If you agreed to three rounds of revisions, you may need to pay an additional fee to go beyond that. 

Both parties of this contract are on equal footing – it’s not an employee/employer relationship. 

You can’t expect free revisions just because you don’t like something. If they’ve met the terms of the contract and you still don’t have something you like you may need to renegotiate. Keep in mind the contract is in place to protect both parties. 

Checking in on time and expectations can go a long way in demonstrating that you respect a designer’s time. It’s a great way to show you value their work, even if you haven’t come to a final product yet. 



Rome wasn’t built in a day -- if you want a rushed job, give a rushed timeframe. It’s important you give your designer time to go back to the drawing board and really take everything in you’ve said so that you can keep working toward a high quality final product. 

Hue & Tone Creative: Your creative team

Let us help you get your project designed right! We're ready to communicate with you on your marketing needs -- whether they're big or small. To take a look at what we've done in the past, be sure to check out our design portfolio. Don't see the type of samples you're looking for? Get in touch, we can email you additional work samples! 

15 Questions to Ask Your Designer Before Hiring Them

15 questions to ask your designer before hiring them   |  Hue & Tone Creative

“You’re hired,” maybe two of the greatest words ever uttered. These babies mean rising employment rates and new beginnings and additional human resources helping to further your professional dreams. The human resource in this case being the much sought-after web designer.

Entrusting your business’s online presence to a trained professional is an excellent choice.  However, before journeying any further, there’s something you must consider: you’re the boss. Like with any other hire, it’s your responsibility to find the right talent to perform the task. Here are 15 questions you should ask a designer before shouting, in boss-like fashion, “you’re hired!”


1. What are your qualifications/professional background?

Your designer will work for you; at least for a time. It’s not unreasonable to seek more information about this person or the company in question. Inquiries regarding past work, training, and experience are all fair game and a good start.


2. How are your services priced?

This may not seem like an important matter upfront, but it’s one that you want to clarify early. The designer probably can’t provide a complete quote at this stage, especially if you haven’t yet articulated all the specifications for your site. This question pertains to how the designer arrives at the total. Does she prefer to work hourly or is the work charged as a flat-fee? Are some items only available a la carte, such as a logo design, or are packages offered? Understanding how the project will be priced will allow you to decide if you’re comfortable with the arrangement and moving forward, and may help you to more knowledgably consider the final quote later.


3. What services do you offer?

The web landscape is changing. While having a professional website is better than not having one, web design is more than just domain names and eye-catching pages. Maybe the designer is qualified to perform analytics once the site has launched or search engine optimization. There may be functions and additions that you’ve not considered. Asking what a designer can do is a great way to discover your options. It can also highlight what services aren’t available.


4. Who owns what?

Once you enlist the assistance of a third party, it’s best to get clear on ownership. If you don’t already own your domain name, who owns it if the designer or company obtains it as part of the web building process? Who maintains possession of any graphics, artwork, content, and the website as a whole once the site is built? What about when your professional relationship ends? It’s best not to assume the answer to these questions and prudent to ask during the vetting stage.


5. What platform will you be using?

Assuming that your designer is constructing a site from scratch, the building medium is key. Are they partial to using a blank slate platform like WordPress or do they favor Squarespace which offers beautiful templates? (If you’re unfamiliar with the latter, see our helpful post, To Squarespace or not to Squarespace?).

The answer to this question will affect everything from costs to curation options.


6. Do you outsource any work?   

The answer here is neither good nor bad. It’s just essential that you know who is working on your project. Being informed helps you better assist in the process and it’s good to know what to expect along the way.


7. What are my hosting options?

Hosting is basically where your web files are kept on the net. You may not want to get this technical, but the answer, depending on how much traffic your site experiences, could mean the difference in site speed, SEO, and accessibility. Also, if the designer self-hosts, questions regarding future accessibility can be discussed here.


8. Do you provide content?

Websites need a consistent flow of updated or new content. If you’re interested in having someone else do this for you, your designer may be your solution. Web design and content production go hand in hand and some designers have begun offering this special service.  Be sure to ask if this is an option.


9. Will I be able to update my site’s content?

Say your company wins a prestigious award, as it should, and you want to add the accolade to your site right away. Will you be able to access the intended page and update your site yourself or will you need to contact your designer each time? Having the ability to easily add and update content is something you definitely want, and knowing if it’s possible is super important.


10. What kind of clients have you worked with in the past?

Your similarity to past clients may mean a more seamless move from building their websites to creating yours. If your designer is used to working with much larger or far smaller companies, this isn’t an indication that they can’t perform the work, but similar practice makes perfect.


11. Do you have a portfolio or examples of previous work?

Taking a gander at a designer’s portfolio can communicate much more than words. Asking to look at completed sites is a quick and easy way to familiarize yourself with the designer’s capabilities.


12. What is your design process?

Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou and Eat, Pray, Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, all expressed very similar writing processes. These masters having like methods is less the point, but there being a process at all is what matters. How does your designer get from point A to point Z? Is there a plan? As stated earlier, knowing what to expect allows you to better assist in your site’s development and eliminates unnecessary uncertainty.


13. What is your timeline?

Will the site be up and running in 3 weeks or 3 months? Get clear on how much time your designer needs to complete their plan. With this info, you can design a marketing campaign around the launch date or if you’re having an existing site revamped, you’ll have a timeframe for maintenance and testing; either way, you’re in the know.


14. What happens if I need additional work once it’s complete?

Your site is not static. It’s a living, breathing organism that will require changes and maintenance from time to time. You may need future support from your designer and working out the logistics now is certainly the way to go.


15. Can you help me, help you?

Designers are usually pretty busy. Juggling several clients and multiple projects with strict deadlines isn’t unusual. While they essentially work for you, they probably aren’t able to be at your beck and call.

You want to understand their best forms of communication and best times to be contacted. This simply allows them to be as responsive to you as possible while allowing space and time to build an amazing product. Openly and honestly communicate any concerns or needs like you would with any other part of your team. Professional courtesy goes a long way in a situation like this and treating your designer with due respect may result in a better product. Asking questions could certainly aid in you confidently uttering those two special words, “you’re hired,” they may also lead to you hearing the beautiful response, “I happily accept.”


We're happy to answer all of these questions...and more! Hue & Tone Creative will take the stress out of developing a new website. Check out our design portfolio to see clients we've helped in the past, and then give us a call -- we can't wait to get the conversation started. 

Should you ever work for free?

There’s a Twitter Page entitled Don’t Work For Free where freelancers can “out” companies and individuals requesting free labor. With over 16,000 likes and just under 2,000 followers, it’s evident that there’s a faction of society who considers working for free sacrilegious. As for me, I was torn on this issue. Then I began writing this article. As a freelancer, I understand the difficulty in locating work then asking for and receiving sufficient pay for the time, enery and training that went into creating my product. Even after earning billions and billions of dollars, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates still demand that mean green, so why should any of us ever work for no pay? Well, there is one reason working for free is justifiable and even beneficial. I’ll explore that first, then I’ll tackle the common reasons people use to rationalize working gratis and briefly discuss the resultant dangers associated with doing so.



To Gain Real-Life Experience

Working for free is a great method to gain experience in a field in which you’re interested, but have no prior knowledge. This is especially true if you’re about to invest years of your life in school or lots of money on training. Working for free could provide access to a field it would be challenging to penetrate otherwise. Take me for instance. My senior year of high school, my father arranged an unpaid gig on my behalf. The gentleman for which I worked, was an attorney. It had been my hope and intention, since the age of 3, to pursue the same profession. With unwavering doubt, I knew that law was what I wanted to do with my life. My Father wasn’t so sure and suggested an internship. Turns out, my Pop was right.

I discovered that while Matlock and Law & Order’s Jack McCoy spent much of their time making lofty speeches in courtrooms, actual criminal attorneys spend long hours in solitude completing paperwork. There were other discrepancies between what I thought being a lawyer was like and the reality. Working for free saved me hundreds of thousands pursuing a career that was nothing like I thought. Thanks Dad and thanks to the opportunity working for free afforded me.



Defined as the act of exposing, laying open, or uncovering. As research for this article, I wanted to find out what my spiritual leader, Oprah, had to say about all this. This is where exposure as pay entered the conversation. Instead of an inspiring Ted Talk or an enlightening interview with Shonda Rhimes, I found hula hoop sensation, Revolva. In 2014, the performer penned an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, admonishing her for an invite to perform pro bono at Oprah’s Live Your Best Life tour. Revolva was offered compensation in the form of exposure.

Let’s be honest, exposure is essential for any business. How can people patronize you, if they don’t know you exist? But those in the market to live their best life, are not necessarily in the market for a hula hooper. Exposure doesn’t guarantee future earnings. Working guarantees future income, which is why we work and for it, we are paid. Exposure is not legal tender.

Resume and Relationship Building

I toyed with the idea of working for free in order to forge a connection with a truly impressive business mogul based in New York. I wanted this connection so badly that I was willing to do most anything to jumpstart the relationship. I figured that rubbing shoulders with this person and being able to say I worked for their company would be like steroids to my puny career. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to move to New York and live in New York or feed myself in New York if I were working for free. Even if I could swing it, my plan bordered on the absurd. Folly aside, what’s important is how I arrived at that thinking.

The Truth

I had never had my talents or skills valued in a traditional workplace or compensated at the level at which I performed. As a result, I struggled with my sense of worth and hoped to happen upon a benefactor that, after I’d demonstrated my worth for less, would happily offer me more.

After years of following this strategy, I found that it rarely works. No one or very few will give you what you’re worth, even if your value has been demonstrated. You must know your worth and ask for, some would argue, demand due compensation. Why is this essential? Because, it’s your contribution. It’s what you have to offer the world. It’s what will be left when you are no longer here. That, in itself, is invaluable. Your essence, your legacy, your mark. Don’t discount or give it away, unless it directly helps sustain your momentum or motivation towards delivering your contribution to whom it is meant. Exposure alone just won’t do. It can be a remarkable perk in addition to income. Relationship building doesn’t justify, unless that relationship is truly symbiotic where both entities are actually benefitting. Impressive resume additions are great, but if you’re in doubt over your own greatness, it won’t be enough and you may continue compromising in the future. Relish in your worth, stand in it, marinate on it, reach for it, rise from it, and then boldly and unapologetically ask for your check, please.

Tamika Page  |  Hue & Tone Creative


Tamika Page works as a marketing assistant and instructor in Atlanta, GA. Her first words were “increase market share.” Although her first words were far less remarkable than previously stated, she does have extensive experience in helping small businesses grow and discover their unique identities.

Want to chat with Tamika directly?

A Year of Hue & Tone

On April 1, 2015, Hue & Tone Creative opened its doors. In a literal sense, we opened one door – to our office on the Revolution Mill campus in Greensboro, NC. Figuratively, it’s been a year of many more doors opening and closing for this business. New clients and partners have made their mark. Processes have been refined. In a personal and professional sense, it’s been a year of learning what works and what doesn’t. 

You only get one first year in business – and I want to celebrate all the successes and challenges that entails. So, with that in mind, here’s an overview of the last 365 days! 


Where We’ve Been

Getting the keys to our office!

Getting the keys to our office!

Hue & Tone got its start in early 2015 as the new, relocated home of Hannah Pomphrey Graphic Design. I’ve been a freelance graphic designer since I was about 19, and was coming off a 9-5 stint in marketing. I realized, though, that it was time to start up a bona fide business in my then-new home of Greensboro. Here’s how I described my freelance journey a year ago:

It wasn’t until my first client gave me a $100 “tip” that I realized I had just found my new side hustle. I set out with my VistaPrint business cards in hand to find myself some new clients. I cold-called and did pro-bono work for local nonprofits until I found enough momentum to begin working almost solely on referrals.

Recently, I took a break from freelancing full-time to try out a 9-5. I packed up my mismatched furniture and my massive shoe collection and relocated to Greensboro, NC with the intention of settling into my much more ‘normal’ 9-5 job.

Turns out this 9-5 thing isn’t for everyone. Even the parts of freelancing that I thought weren’t for me – the irregular income, quirky clients, and doing my own taxes – were some of the things I missed the most. While some might call irregular paychecks and lulls in work terrifying, it now seems like some much-needed work/life spice.   

A year in, I’d still describe it the same way. Owning your own business isn’t easy – it’s not even in the same universe as easy. But the ability to work for myself – to shape the business objectives of my organization, while still getting my hands messy with design – is rewarding and worthwhile in a way I have a tough time explaining. Given the decision to make again, I’d make the same one.


Growth as a Company

As I said above, Hue & Tone’s first year in business has been a year of refinement and learning what works. I’ve had the opportunity to work with fabulous clients, new and old, and have worked to improve processes both on the client side and internally.

On average, Hue & Tone typically works with 10 to 20 clients at a time, and the scope of work taken on varies by client. I’ve done print design, web design, videos, social media, and consulting for large corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. Some clients seek assistance on a per-project basis, while others hire Hue & Tone on a monthly basis for ongoing projects.

Internally, I’ve worked toward greater cohesion and focus for Hue & Tone as a business. That’s meant asking tough questions about the type of work I do and the clients I seek out. (For example: do I primarily work with local clients, or web-based businesses?) It’s also meant diversifying our portfolio so multiple skills and competencies are being exercised through our current body of work. It’s never my goal to do only social media projects or only video projects or only (fill in the blank here). When possible, I love working with clients across a wide variety of their creative needs – simultaneously working on design, video, and social, for instance. There’s a lot of interplay between different types of creative and having a hand in multiple pieces of the puzzle can add some coherence and visual consistency.

Finally, the growth of the past year has meant I needed to continue defining and re-defining the way Hue & Tone itself is marketed. You may have noticed some changes on our website, and here on the blog as well. I’d love to hear your feedback as I continue to learn what works.


A Few Stand Out Projects

With year one in the books, I’d love to share a few favorites and highlights of the year. Every project was an opportunity to learn and grow, and I’m grateful for each one. Here are a few that stood out…

Comprehensive Branding for CSDHH | Website and branding for CSDHH, a nonprofit that provides communication services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Notable for the opportunity to start from scratch and a desire, on the part of the client, to avoid the obvious. 

Revolution Mill Social Media | Design and daily management of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for Revolution Mill. From social graphics to #RevMillGSO, a chance to engage with a broad range of stakeholders (from future leaseholders to the community at large) about the live-work-create environment of Revolution Mill.

Pitch Video for Brown Investment Properties | An opportunity to create something rich, visually appealing, and (no pun intended) creative, while serving a strategic (and serious) purpose.


Favorite Blog Posts

Throughout the year, this blog has been a reliable place to share the ups and downs of Hue & Tone’s first year in business. Increasingly, it’s also become a place to share design inspiration and a few hints of the colors, textures, and patterns that fuel my imagination each day. Here are a few favorite posts from the year…


One of my favorite aspects of being a local business owner is the opportunity to interact with the community. Here are a few of my favorite Greensboro events!

Coffee & Conversation | A Greensboro Chamber event with for networking and learning about a new, focused topic each time.

IdeaNetwork | Organized by Cochran Creative Group, IdeaNetwork is an opportunity to come together, hear a speaker, then participate in a group discussion on the ideas raised.

Craft Freedom | An initiative to change the North Carolina law that restricts the growth of breweries by placing a cap on the amount of beer they can self-distribute, and a chance to support small businesses’ rights.


Thank You!

When all is said and done, the past year has been a big one – a wild one – a just-plain-irreplaceable one. It’s involved a lot of hard work, both of the creative variety and the messy, hauling-furniture-into-offices variety. None of it would have been possible without the support and partnership of many, so a few thank-yous are in order!

To Hue & Tone’s clients, thank you for your partnership, and for allowing Hue & Tone to help tell your story. It’s an honor every time!

To the community of Greensboro-based designers I’ve met, your advice has been invaluable.

To Sirtuah, and to my family, thank you for your patience and support through the crazy journey of the last year.

To the Greensboro community as a whole, thank you for welcoming me, welcoming Hue & Tone as a business and being a wonderful place to call home.

With all that said…that’s a wrap on Hue & Tone’s first year. It hasn’t been perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Here’s to year two!

To office or not to office?

                      Hue & Tone's New Space

                      Hue & Tone's New Space

Anyone following my start-up journey on social media has probably noticed I’ve been posting almost non-stop about my new office – that’s because I’m insanely excited about it! After freelancing from home part-time for the past few years one of my biggest hesitations working for myself full-time was the prospect of having to work from home.

Now, everyone’s different. But for me, a brief stint of working from home (when I was in between jobs) left me scarred for life – I literally went a few days without human interaction, my outfits had devolved into mismatched athletic wear and I was working completely irregular hours.

If you’re as extroverted as me, renting office space or looking into a local co-working space is going to be a major factor in your ability to be successful. If you’re just starting out, the low commitment option of co-working may be a better fit – your own office often means committing to a 12-month lease for both the space and the Internet. 

I’ve tried co-working in the past and was ready to try out my own space, but after weeks of searching I was worried my own space would be completely out of my price range. While the sticker price looked completely doable at first, there are a few additional costs to take into consideration: 

1-  Business Internet: Pricing for Business Class Internet is considerably higher then residential service. For a creative business that typically deals with large files, we needed a slightly higher speed -- this started in the $140 range and was priced into the $200s for turbo speeds. 

2- Commercial Renter’s Insurance: Expect commercial renter’s insurance to cost significantly more than the $10/month policy for your apartment. Before signing a lease, ask the leasing company for a copy of the minimum insurance requirements (these will be different everywhere) and be sure to price out a few different policies. Depending on the company, you may be able to get a lower rate if you use the same company you already have a policy with.

Be prepared to answer questions about your equipment, how many clients will be visiting and your day-to-day business operations so you can receive an accurate quote.

QUICK TIP: If your office is smaller, make sure to take careful measurements to make sure that the furniture you have will even work in the space. Having to crawl under your desk to get to the printer gets old…

3- Furnishing your office: Thrifting and shopping for furniture at Goodwill can take a considerable amount of time and luck. Before committing to a space, be sure to take stock of what you have or can borrow. If you have to start from scratch, thrifting, Ikea or Walmart are probably your best bet! Take into account the cost for a few basic decorations, window coverings, rugs and consider if you need a lockable filing cabinet for confidential billing information.

4- Office supplies: Working in your own space means you’ll need to purchase everything from sticky notes and pens to a new printer. These costs can add up to hundreds of dollars for even the thriftiest, most selective shoppers.

5- Common Areas: Find out whether your office building will be offering a break room or shared kitchen. Eating out every day is a major expense when you’re just starting out – so you may be looking at making the investment in a mini fridge, microwave, bottled water, dishes, plastic silverware, or a coffeemaker.

After weeks of crunching the numbers, I was able to find a cozy, 230-square-foot office to split with another start-up business. Halving the costs of everything with an officemate left me with a much less intimidating monthly cost. For me, having my own office space was a necessary investment in my happiness and the long-term success of business, but like everything else, it’s necessary to weigh the cost and make the best decision for you. 

Are You Ready to Work for Yourself? 5 Questions to Ask


Working for yourself full-time can be a great thing. There’s nothing like striking out on your own to develop your skills, and the freedom you’ll gain over your time, income, and opportunities is incomparable.  

Still, working for yourself is hard – in ways you don’t always imagine when you’re starting out. So how do you know if you’re ready? Start by asking yourself these five questions.

Why am I doing this?

What’s going on in your life that makes you want to take the leap? And if all those situations suddenly changed – if you had a brand-new boss, a raise, and a corner office – would you still want to work for yourself? Pay attention to your answer. You should be ready to make a commitment that lasts through changing circumstances.

How long could I realistically live on the savings I’ve built up?

Figure out how much you think you’ll need…then double it. Particularly in creative industries – where you’re offering a service, rather than a product – the line from successful client acquisition to actually seeing a check in your bank account can be a long one.

Am I ready for EVERY aspect of owning a business?

Making a living from the creative work you love doing is great. But remember that you’ll also have a whole new list of responsibilities aside from the creative stuff. Make sure you’re ready to handle more complicated taxes, find a space (or work from home), and – of course – get out there and find some clients.

What’s unique about me? How can I brand that?

You know you’re a great copywriter/graphic designer/web developer. Remember, though – there are a lot of talented creatives out there. What sets you apart? How can you cohesively and visually represent – aka brand – the things you alone can offer?

Who’s in my corner?

Although you may now be a business of one, success doesn’t happen alone. Think about the network you’ve built over the years…who do you know whose skills are the perfect complement to yours? Now’s the time to brainstorm the partnerships you can build based on those relationships.

Need help figuring out how to brand your services? I’m all ears! Drop me a line: